Ravens Ozzie Newsome thanks his scout team and coaches on his last official draft as general manager. (Kevin Richardson / Baltimore Sun video)
The Ravens stayed with their commitment to upgrade the offense during the offseason and they helped themselves in the draft.
In the first round they drafted South Carolina tight end Hayden Hurst and he'll be the starter for the 2018 season. The Ravens may have found their quarterback of the future in Louisville's Lamar Jackson, who was taken with the final pick of the first round. If he eventually becomes the starter for Joe Flacco in a year or two, then the Ravens current draft grade of a B+ should be upgraded to an A.
Jackson fits the mold of current quarterbacks who are more mobile than the standard dropback prototypes. Maybe the addition of Jackson will help motivate Flacco, and if not, then that's on Flacco, not the Ravens. I assume Flacco will be a pro and handle the situation well. It's one of the few times the Ravens have actually put pressure on Flacco instead of coddling him.
Joe Flacco still hasn’t revealed how he feels about the Ravens using their second first-round draft pick Thursday night to bring in a young quarterback who figures to be groomed as his eventual replacement. He only spoke to fans at the Ravens' DraftFest event.
Both third-round picks can almost be called projects, but it will be interesting to see how the Ravens use them. If Orlando Brown Jr develops and shows half the work ethic of his father, then the sky is the limit. Regardless, he can be a solid right tackle in the NFL if he can adjust from that run-and-pass option offense run by Oklahoma to an NFL offense. He'll have to come out of a three-point stance more instead of a two-point one. At Oklahoma, quarterback Baker Mayfield got rid of the ball in three seconds. In the NFL, most pass plays require five- to seven-step dropbacks.
I also like the Ravens adding Sooners tight end Mark Andrews in the third round. Even though he isn't much of a blocker, he has good hands and can play outside or in the slot when the Ravens are in pass mode. But he needs to learn to block so when the Ravens are in a two tight end formation they aren't predictable and opposing teams know which side the Ravens are going to run.
Alabama cornerback Anthony Averett, taken in the fourth round, has great speed and could play over the slot. The Ravens already have several young cornerbacks on the roster, but they can always use another. One thing about taking Crimson Tide players is that you know they are well-coached and fundamentally sound. The Ravens were still in search of receivers after the first two days and took a couple on the last day in Jaleel Scott from New Mexico State and Jordan Lasley from UCLA
Scott has good size at 6-5 and 215 pounds, but not good speed even though he caught 76 passes for 1,079 yards and nine touchdowns last season. Lasley has had off-field problems but maybe he has overcome them and will be successful on the field. He had 69 catches for 1,264 yards and nine touchdowns last season. He runs a 4.5 40-yard dash so he is worth a fifth-round gamble.
The Ravens are just trying to find a gem of a receiver or some special teams performers in the late rounds. One of those special teams guys could be UCLA linebacker Kenny Young, who will compete at weak side linebacker and was taken in the fourth round.
Overall, it was a good farewell draft for Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome. He loaded up on defense a year ago and improved his offense over the weekend. I'm not sure the Ravens are a team that can go deep into the playoffs, but they have improved from a year ago. How much? We'll find out in a couple of months. At least there is excitement surrounding this team and something to look forward to watching.